Summary: By faith overcome anger, fear, and the world.
Tony Campolo tells the story of a town where all the residents are ducks. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of their houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat in their proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place, and then the duck minister comes forward and opens the duck Bible.
He reads to them: “Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings. God has given you wings, and you can fly like birds!"
All the ducks shout, “Amen!” And then they all waddle home. (Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story, Word, 2000; www. PreachingToday.com)
That describes a lot of believers I know. They say “amen” to the notion that they can fly, but continue to waddle around like they are tied to the ground. They’ve read in their Bibles that they can soar to great heights, overcoming any obstacle, but continue to wallow in the muddy puddles of bitterness, worry or greed. Does that describe some of you? I know it describes me at times.
So tell me: What will it take for us to overcome the attitudes and habits that keep us grounded? What will it take for us to fly? What will it take for us to soar to the heights for which God designed us?
Well, let me tell you the story of a man who overcame incredible obstacles in his own life. It’s the story of the first war recorded in the ancient Hebrew Scriptures and one of its real heroes.
The story begins when the ancient rulers of Iran and Iraq and two other nations subjugated five tribes of people living around the Dead Sea in what is today known as the nation of Israel. After 12 years, those tribal leaders had had enough, and they tried to free themselves from the tyranny of those four rulers from the east. Well, this brought the armies of those four nations against them, and the tribal leaders were utterly defeated. Their cities were ransacked, and their people were carried away. Among those people was Abram’s nephew, Lot.
Now, Lot thought he had made the right choice, when he chose to live near the Dead Sea. Back then, the area was lush and green, and the ancient city of Sodom was there. It had all the modern amenities and would protect his growing family from the marauding raiders that roamed the countryside.
Lot walked by sight, and he selfishly took from his uncle, Abram, the land that looked good to him. Even so, Lot ended up losing everything, and he found himself being carried off as a prisoner of war.
Genesis 14:13 Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. (ESV)
Genesis 14:14 “When Abram had heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he [said, “Serves him right,” and he stayed home.] Is that what your Bible says? No!
Genesis 14:14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (ESV)
Abram is going to try and rescue his nephew, Lot, the one who showed him no respect and practically stole from him. You see, before Abram could win any battles against an outward enemy, he had to win the battles within himself. And the first battle he won was the battle against bitterness and anger. By faith, Abram overcame the anger within and forgave his nephew, Lot.
You see, Lot had done a terrible thing to Abram. When Abram gave him his choice of land in the last chapter, by custom, Lot should have deferred the choice back to Abram, his uncle, elder, and mentor. Instead, he selfishly chose the best land for himself and moved away. It was like a slap in the face – a sign of total disrespect.
Even so, Abram refused to retaliate. Instead, he chose to forgive his nephew; and when he was in trouble, Abram chose to help him out.
How could he do it? Simple. Abram believed in the promises of God. God had promised him all the land he could see, to the north, the south, the east, and the west. And it really didn’t matter that Lot took a small portion of the land in the southeast corner. It was nothing compared to what God had promised Abram. And Abram believed that promise, so he was able to forgive his nephew.